DDS implements changes to Courtyard and Novack Cafés

by Blake McGill | 9/19/19 2:00am

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The Courtyard Café will now take orders from the GET app in an effort to reduce wait times.

by Lorraine Liu / The Dartmouth

As students and faculty members embark on a new school year at the College, Dartmouth Dining Services is rolling out reforms at the Courtyard Café and Novack Café. 

While the Courtyard Café in the Hopkins Center is well-known across campus for its made-to-order meals, students have complained for years about its long lines. In an effort to shorten wait times, DDS has created and implemented an online ordering system that allows students to pre-order meals from the Courtyard Café. 

DDS director Jon Plodzik said that administrators have been working on the project for over a year, implementing suggestions from an online survey filled out by students and a dining committee composed of students that meets at least once per term. 

Plodzik said DDS has always discussed potential solutions to long lines. DDS took note from Tuck Business School, which utilizes the GET app for food ordering. 

“I loved the idea of us using technology to improve the experience,” Plodzik said.

In using the app, interested customers first select a date and time to pick up their meal. Students can then place their desired order. 

DDS wanted students ordering online to still have the option to adjust their orders based on their dietary wants and needs, according to Plodzik. Consequently, all orders from the Courtyard Café’s grill are customizable, except for items purchased from the Gathering Greens salad bar. 

Plodzik explained that the “Build Your Own” salads sold at the Café are priced based on weight. Because students pay for the salads through the app before the salad is made, DDS has opted to only allow salads itemized on the menu to be pre-ordered, but added that this policy is subject to change over time. 

Courtyard Café employee Martha Dow said she hopes that the changes lead to the Courtyard Café receiving more orders, especially at lunchtime when students typically do not have enough time to wait in the café’s long lines. 

The cost of the meal must be paid in Dining Dollars and is automatically taken from a student’s account upon placing an order through the Dartmouth app, Plodzik said. Students are not able to use meal swipes toward online orders at this time, he added. 

Courtyard Café manager Steven Edes explained that the minimum of 20 minutes between placing the order and picking it up allows a buffer for the Café’s workers. This method allows employees to focus on the line of students in front of them and make the online orders when it makes the most sense. 

All pre-ordered meals are packaged in Green2Go containers and can be picked up from a heated box located to the right of the Gathering Greens salad bar. 

When students return the container after use to the Courtyard Café, the Class of ’53 Commons or Novack, they receive a carabiner that must be presented at the register the next time a student picks up pre-ordered food or purchases food to-go after waiting in the Courtyard Café’s line. 

“The problem is that students do not return the Green2Go containers,” Dow said. “We are fishing them out of the trash [cans].”

Plodzik said they retrieved 700 Green2Go containers from dormitories and other locations after students left campus in June, adding that there are still approximately 3,000 containers unaccounted for. 

According to Plodzik, DDS hopes to utilize GET for more transactions if the app works better for students. 

Novack Café, located in Baker-Berry Library, has also undergone renovations since the spring term.

While previously Novack sold coffee from a local supplier and the tea was from Teatulia, the coffee and tea now sold is supplied by Starbucks. 

The bakery case is now also stocked with a number of new pastry items not solely sourced from DDS.

While the sandwiches sold are still sourced from DDS, workers are now required to toast them behind the counter if a customer asks. Plodzik said Novack now has Turbo Chef ovens for toasting sandwiches, which he compared to high-powered microwaves. 

According to a number of managers at Novack, including Aimee Pacheco ’20, workers have to pay close attention to the sandwiches while they toast, as a number of workers have reported burns in the first week of operations.  

The refrigerators storing grab-and-go food items and beverages have been moved against the walls. Pacheco said they have replaced shelves that used to allow workers to stock and re-stock food and beverage items with ease. Now, workers must make more frequent trips to a back closet to re-stock the refrigerators and baskets, which has been difficult with the heavy and constant flow of customers, according to Pacheco. 

According to Plodzik, this rearrangement was meant to improve to “feel” of the Café’s space and to give it a “contemporary, clean look.” DDS will be changing the lighting in the space this week with the intention of expanding on that same goal, he added. 

The workers at Novack will continue to undergo training to learn how to make all of the Café’s drink offerings. All 60 workers will gather this Sunday to receive in-person training. Plodzik said Starbucks is sending a trainer to Novack this Sunday and a company representative to a grand opening event on Monday. 

Through Starbucks, the Novack workers have already completed an extensive online training, for which they received monetary compensation, Plodzik said. 

Pacheco said she and her colleagues have struggled to make the drinks in their first week. She said the managers did not feel adequately prepared and have relied on the recipe cards provided by DDS. 

Another challenge Novack workers are facing comes at check-out, according to Pacheco. Plodzik said DDS adjusted the block meal plans to allow students to use two meal swipes per period. Pacheco explained that if a purchase goes beyond the allotment of the meal swipe, the register requires a second swipe instead of automatically charging Dining Dollars.